Former First Minister and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said that unionist paramilitary violence during the period of the first Belfast Assembly was linked to DUP opposition to the Good Friday Agreement.
Trimble said that in the initial years after the 1998 Belfast Agreement unionist paramilitaries opposed to the accord “maintained a campaign of sectarian violence against Catholics, including several murders”, while the DUP opposed the agreement politically.
“Then after the Assembly election in 2003, when the DUP got their nose in front of the UUP, this particular strand of loyalist violence petered out. This may be coincidence, but I think it more likely that there is a connection.
“Again, the violence may have been spontaneous, or the perpetrators may have thought that this was their contribution to the anti-agreement campaign.”
Lord Trimble asked “if anything was done to discourage this” activity, or if there was “any encouragement, direct or indirect” of this violence?
“I do not suggest that there was any complicity at party leadership level - the place to look is on the ground at local level.”
PSNI FACILITATING UDA ATTACKS
Meanwhile, the PSNI police has been accused of standing by while attacks are carried out by the unionist paramilitary UDA in a County Antrim town.
The Police ombudsman has been called in to investigate the failure of the PSNI to protect residents in Carrickfergus from repeated attacks by the UDA.
In the last week alone six homes in one estate were attacked by a masked gang believed to be affiliated to the break-away South East Antrim UDA.
Despite numerous attacks and threats and even the shooting of a PSNI man in the back in July last year, there have been no prosecution in relation to the unionist violence.
Father-of-two Darren Crothers is in the process of moving after numerous death threats and attacks on his home.
“I’ve had petrol thrown over the front window and set alight, a pipe bomb attack, two cars wrecked and my windows broken more times than enough,” he said.
“This has been ongoing since last October. I’ve lost count of the many times I have contacted the police.
“I’ve now put it in the hands of the Police Ombudsman because as far as I’m concerned these people are paid police informants and are being protected because of that.
“When my car was attacked there was a hammer and three sets of finger prints found and they still never charged anyone. What does that tell you?
“I’ve had to leave my home because my children were so distressed but even when my house is sitting empty they are still attacking it.”
Linda Lyttle says she has also went to the ombudsman after police failed to respond to death threats made to her family.
“The police in Carrick don’t seem to have the will to do anything about this,” she said.
“South East Antrim are running this town and no-one is standing up to them.
UDA GANG CLEARED
Meanwhile, six men arrested in combat uniforms during a planned UDA ‘show of strength’ in the Alexandra Bar in north Belfast have escaped prosecution after a court ruled they were ‘not in a public place’.
Last month former UDA ‘brigadier’ Ihab Shoukri pleaded guilty to membership and organising a meeting on behalf of the unionist paramilitary group following a high-profile raid on the York Street venue in March 2006.
But although photographs were taken of the acquitted men dressed in combat trousers, boots and bomber jackets, a resident magistrate found all six not guilty of wearing paramilitary dress.
The court was told that more than 230 paying supporters were expected at a paramilitary propaganda stunt in the north Belfast bar the night after the arrests.
Defence lawyers argued that the bar was not a public place as the men had been in an upstairs room normally used for functions.
A charge of “managing a meeting in support of a terrorist organisation” was also withdrawn by the Crown Prosecution Service shortly before the court hearing.